Column by Dan Hatfield
Dear Orlando Informer: We’re planning a trip to Orlando and we’re going to go to SeaWorld for the first time. Are there a lot of opportunities to get close to animals, or do most of the encounters happen with the animals behind fences and plexiglass? I want to be able to get close to the different creatures and I’d like not to have to pay extra for it.
Excellent question! It’s easy to focus on the big shows and exhibits when we think about animal interactions at SeaWorld Orlando. Although the spotlight will always be on the showstopping Shamu, there are dozens of opportunities to interact with animals at SeaWorld in a much more direct way – and most of them have no additional cost.
The obvious opportunities are the ones well publicized by SeaWorld on the “Exhibits” section of their official website. These include, for example, Dolphin Cove and Stingray Lagoon in the park’s Key West area. But SeaWorld offers its guests even more close-up encounters in an area of the park called SeaGarden.
Located at the back of the property, this beautifully landscaped area is often missed by the casual park guest. Yet, for the lucky people who wander into it, there is much to behold. At select times throughout the day SeaWorld features their “animal connections”. During these special encounters guests are treated to face-to-face experiences with a host of crafty creatures. Recently I was able to get close up to Lily the groundhog and a frisky cotton-top tamarin.
It is a challenge to describe these experiences in words, and pictures only catch a moment. So, to properly answer this question and show you just what kind of close-up animal encounters you can experience at SeaWorld, I put together the following video. I think you’ll enjoy it.
Keep in mind that SeaWorld often has impromptu animal encounters throughout the park. In the video, the pictures of the eagle were taken as we were strolling along the waterfront to Atlantis Bayside Stadium.
I love the questions! Keep ’em coming. And please write a comment below if you think of anything I missed.
PS. SeaWorld Orlando isn’t just about animal encounters. They also have cutting-edge thrill rides (like Manta) and spectacular special events (like Viva la Musica).
• Dan Hatfield is an Orlando enthusiast, vacation planning specialist, local blogger, and full-time student at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. He runs OrlandoInformer.com, a site dedicated to providing practical knowledge and insider tips about a wide range of Orlando vacation activities. You can reach Dan via his website, on Twitter at @OrlandoInformer, or at [email protected].